Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Mayoral Election Update: UFT/AFT Defiantly Doubles Down on Stringer Support

If one allegation, with shaky evidence, is enough to short-circuit a political career, a new playbook is opened up, one left-leaning Democrats must take into account when embarking on future campaigns.... Ross Barkan

“I’m very proud of that endorsement because of what Scott has done and what he will do,” said Ms. Weingarten, the former president of the U.F.T. “I think he’ll be a great mayor. Am I troubled by the allegations? Of course,” she said, adding, “I’m also a unionist who has dealt with false allegations.”... NY Times report , Eliza Shapiro

The United Federation of Teachers is boosting Mr. Stringer’s embattled campaign with an advertising blitz.

Also see

Rushing to Judgment on Scott Stringer: The Nation

I don’t know what happened. But here’s what I do know. We cannot flourish as a society if a single accusation out of the blue upends an election overnight and ruins a 30-year career in politics. More information may clarify matters, but as of now, we don’t have it. Love him or hate him—and I spoke to people who consider Stringer arrogant and bullying, as well as others who think he’s “sweet,” “clumsy,” and “nebbishy”—he’s entitled to a more measured assessment, as are the voters of New York City. It is shocking that so many political figures would abandon him so quickly. Why did they do that? 

The Nation is left-progressive, as are The Intercept and Krystal Ball, and they all have raised questions, as has Ross Barkan, over the rush to judgement.

Also interesting takeaways from the NYT article of support for Stringer, who is unlikely to win, yet the AFT/UFT are not backing away. The fact that Randi seems to be leading this local battle from the national stage and not Mulgrew shows us she is still pulling the strings. He isn't even mentioned in the article.

Shapiro, not exactly teachers' favorite ed reporter made a fair point (finally):

Some parents and mayoral candidates have accused the union of slowing the pace of school reopenings in New York over the last year. But with the majority of families still choosing to learn remotely, there is no evidence of a significant public backlash against the union.

The fact is when you look at all the other candidates, the UFT doesn't really have an alternative path to Stringer, though Wiley is favored by some in the second tier leadership. Morales, favored by MORE Caucus, is too left for the union. Ironically, I recently heard a left wing NYC tennant organizer trashing her left creds because she spent a decade running an agency of a major landlord. I also often point out that Morales apparently worked in the Joel Klein anti-union administration.

Leading candidates Yang and Adams are now viewed by the UFT as existential threats. Yang is Bloomberg light as evidenced by Bradley Tusk's control of his campaign. And Adams is clearly a Charter industry clone, as evidenced by Jenny Sedlis, my old sparring partner from Success Academy, taking a leave of absense from running the ani-union Students First to form an Adams PAC. 

I speculated in my report on The Intercept and Rising exposure of discrepancies in Stringer's accuser's story that Stringer, who ended Eva's political career, is a particular danger to Success and the charter industrial complex and the political hit on him serves them well -- I never put it beyond them in alliance with the Bloomberg crowd. 

Mulgrew went off on Yang/Adams at last night's Ex bd as reported by Arthur:

Will be NYT story about how UFT and AFT have opened up support for Stringer and others. Mayor's race will really get hot and heavy now. Something we thought was happening seems to have come to fruition. Agency run by Bradley Tusk, who campaigned against UFT running Yang campaign, and Students First giving 6 million to Eric Adams. These groups have worked to get city hall back. They are now major players with two candidates. Will get ugly. All the colocation fights can be tied to these agencies. Every time something bad happens, you'll see them involved when it comes to us. 

We know who these people are, and we thought Adams would work with Students First. Thanks groups who did vetting, dug into finances, and checked who they supported and donated to. Will discuss in detail at Town Hall and DA. 

Mayor's race shaping into three person race. Stringer has allegations against him, but most unions who've endorsed have stuck. Allegations are allegations. Our group that first endorsed says we should continue.

Never thought we'd go back to Bloomberg days. Yang isn't billionaire, but is tied with this group. Adams is tied with Students First. We will get word out.

This will be their selling point for Stringer, and you know it might energize some UFTers. I'm thinking about putting him first. I also view Garcia in a similar light given her support for the white upper west side parents who want schools open no matter what (she spoke at their rally in Harlem along with Yang - I was at the counter rally. -- Rally in Harlem as Parents, Educators Stage Counter Rally to Mostly White Parent Demands to Open Schools and disregard safety issues -)

Ross Barkan has a fascinating must read analysis of the mayoral race with a focus on Stringer: Scott Stringer, #MeToo, and What's Next for the Left: A major scandal roils the mayoral race.

Stringer, unlike Cuomo, had never developed any kind of reputation of acting inappropriately toward women. There were no stories of boozy holiday parties or anecdotes of hugs and kisses that lasted far too long. Stringer was especially not flirtatious. Current and former aides, many of them female, spoke highly of him. Stringer, at age 40 or 41, may have been a sexual predator. But he may not have been. The incident with Kim took place 20 years ago. There are no witnesses, as of now, that have come forward to recall that Kim related this allegation to them in 2001 or shortly after.

Barkan also points to the dangers of the MeToo movement that leaps immediatley to cancel anyone charged before a vetting process takes place and how the movement can be weaponized to bring down any candidate, especially progressives. After giving details of The Intercept report, Barkan says:

None of this, on its own, proves Kim is lying. But it does raise an uncomfortable question for the progressive Democrats most concerned about holding men in politics accountable for their untoward behavior: how much evidence is really required for an allegation? What allegations should be strong enough to end a political career? The standard set from the Stringer incident is that one allegation made by one person, no matter the time elapsed or the amount of evidence presented, is sufficient. And perhaps, they would argue, that is how politics should be conducted from 2021 onwards. Women should be believed. Once they speak out, that’s enough.

At least, with Cuomo, there are many allegations, and some of the calls for his resignation have stemmed from a potential cover-up of nursing home deaths and a scandalous pandemic response. Some of the women stepping forward against Cuomo accuse him of harassing them as recently as last year. Kim’s allegation, having taken place 20 years ago, cannot be substantiated in such a way. It is notable, too, that many long-time Stringer allies were willing to ditch his mayoral campaign entirely even though no man or woman has come forward to tell the media that Kim related the incident to them in 2001. For investigations into claims of harassment and assault, this is the initial bar of evidence that usually needs to be cleared.

If one allegation, with shaky evidence, is enough to short-circuit a political career, a new playbook is opened up, one left-leaning Democrats must take into account when embarking on future campaigns. Last year, a popular 31-year-old progressive running for Congress in Massachusetts, Alex Morse, was accused of engaging in improper sexual conduct with younger men when he was a college instructor. Morse, who had been mayor of the town of Holyoke at the time, insisted all relationships he had were consensual. No one accused him of dating men younger than the age of consent.

The allegations, the Intercept later reported, were a farce. The College Democrats at the University of Massachusetts Amherst had plotted in 2019 about ways to ensnare Morse, a young gay man, in scandal. They were all supporters of Morse’s establishment opponent, Richard Neal. The State Democratic Party of Massachusetts even coordinated with the College Democrats on how these allegations could be planted in the media. In the end, the scheme worked: Neal, the incumbent congressman, won re-election comfortably.

What happened to Morse could easily happen to other ascendant progressives in the future. Conservative political operatives—or those aligned with the Democratic establishment—can aim to coordinate or manufacture an allegation, knowing that left institutions and politicians will rapidly withdraw their support for the rising candidate. Morse quickly lost the endorsement of the Sunrise Movement and other progressive organizations, though the allegations immediately appeared dubious. If Democrats on the left want to end any semblance of due process—if allegations, on their own, are the equivalent of a conviction—than it is not hard to imagine how this will be exploited by nefarious actors.

Stringer is not Morse and there’s no evidence that other Democrats are coordinating with Kim to damage Stringer’s campaign. Kim very well might be telling the truth. The allegation lacks direct evidence, but Stringer cannot disprove it, either. It will be up to voters, ultimately, to judge Stringer, because he has rejected calls from his rivals to drop out. With more than $7 million to spend, he is forging onward, toward an uncertain finish on June 22nd.

What’s not yet clear is how Stringer will be evaluated by the hundreds of thousands of Democrats who will show up to vote. Polling in the next few weeks will tell us. It’s very possible the allegation doesn’t hurt Stringer’s position all that much. His supporters, many of whom have been voting for him since the 1990s and 2000s, aren’t all defecting to front-runners like Yang and Adams. Maya Wiley and Dianne Morales are hoping to hoover up disaffected Stringer voters, though we don’t know yet how many of these people they’ll be able to pull into their own camps. There is growing evidence in polling data that older Democrats are not so easily moved by sexual harassment and assault allegations. There’s a reason Cuomo has ignored calls for his own resignation. Some Democrats, believing Al Franken was unfairly driven from the Senate, are becoming less willing than progressive organizations and politicians to throw their own overboard, especially since Republicans almost never do.

That’s Stringer’s political calculus. Assuming no new allegations, it may work in at least maintaining a kind of stasis: a consistent third place in the polls, with the hope of a last minute surge. Stringer’s most pivotal endorsers haven’t defected yet. Congressman Jerry Nadler, the king of the Upper West Side, is still with Stringer, as is the United Federation of Teachers. Older voters of color are also not likely to judge Stringer especially harshly, since it was Spitzer, the scandal-scarred former governor, who dominated Black and Latino neighborhoods as he narrowly lost to Stringer in that 2013 comptroller’s race. It’s no accident Stringer has been hitting the church circuit every weekend.

If Stringer remains viable and manages to come close to capturing the Democratic nomination, it will be a further indictment of the nonprofit left organizations and the elected officials aligned with them. For the last decade, these organizations, like the Working Families Party, have boasted of their power to move voters, to decide the direction of the left flank of the Democratic Party. Most of the politicians who deserted Stringer are closely allied with WFP and their member organizations, and seem to believe, publicly at least, they are representative of the working class voters of this city and can mobilize them at pivotal moments.

 The NYT article:



In the weeks since a former campaign volunteer accused Scott M. Stringer of sexual misconduct, many of the Democratic mayoral candidate’s most crucial supporters, including the Working Families Party and a phalanx of progressive politicians, have abandoned his campaign.

But powerful teachers’ unions are not only sticking with Mr. Stringer, the city comptroller — they are, starting Tuesday, offering a much-needed boost to his embattled campaign in the form of a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz.

The American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers’ union, and the United Federation of Teachers, its large and influential New York City chapter, are the primary backers of the $4 million television and digital advertising effort. The ads and mailers will be paid for by NY 4 Kids, a super PAC created to “keep the issues affecting our schools, kids and teachers front and center in this election,” according to a release from the group.

The A.F.T. has contributed $1 million so far, and the PAC has commitments for the remaining $3 million. The effort by the PAC, which is primarily funded by the unions, will more than triple the Stringer campaign’s own spending on ads, which has totaled about $1.3 million so far. 

The unions make up an essential part of the coalition that is still standing with Mr. Stringer before the Democratic primary in June. But their continued support for the candidate amounts to a very risky political bet for the U.F.T. in particular, which has failed to back a winning candidate for mayor since 1989.

The union has significant power over key education decisions, but its influence in the city’s electoral politics could be weakened considerably if it once again bets on the wrong candidate.

That has not deterred Randi Weingarten, the president of the A.F.T. and one of the most powerful union leaders in the country, from defending Mr. Stringer. On Sunday, she stood with the candidate and Representative Jerrold Nadler on Mr. Stringer’s home turf, the Upper West Side, to praise his record as a longtime local politician.

“I’m very proud of that endorsement because of what Scott has done and what he will do,” said Ms. Weingarten, the former president of the U.F.T. “I think he’ll be a great mayor.”

“Am I troubled by the allegations? Of course,” she said, adding, “I’m also a unionist who has dealt with false allegations.”

Tyrone Stevens, a spokesman for Mr. Stringer, said the campaign was “thrilled to have the ongoing support of champions for public education, because they know the next mayor needs to be ready on day one to invest in our children and bring our schools back stronger than ever.”

Some parents and mayoral candidates have accused the union of slowing the pace of school reopenings in New York over the last year. But with the majority of families still choosing to learn remotely, there is no evidence of a significant public backlash against the union.

Other major unions have endorsed Mr. Stringer’s rivals, with several lining up behind Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president. But the U.F.T. backed Mr. Stringer, a longtime ally of the union, last month. When the U.F.T. president, Michael Mulgrew, was asked whether his 200,000-member union would support whoever the Democratic nominee was, he replied that Mr. Stringer would in fact be the nominee.



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